Archive for April, 2009

Weight Bias among Dietetic Students

Recently, a study was published regarding dietitians and stereotyping overweight individuals.  I found this study interesting for a few reasons.  The sample of study participants were mostly white women (92% of the study participants were women and 85% of the sample was white, 9% Asian, 4% Hispanic, and 1% African American).  Many studies continuously suggest that eating disorders are the most common among white women, and it isn’t out of the question that most nutrition students move into the nutrition field particularly due to their own insecurities about weight-related issues.  In other words, the sample of students chosen for this study were a bunch of women who most likely had or have eating issues in their lives.

Given that significant little tidbit, the students completed an online survey called the “Fat Phobia Scale.”  In the measure, they rated the adjectives that they believed best described obese people. Higher scores reflected negative attitudes, while lower scores were positive ones.  The outcome was the following:

Negative adjective on Fat Phobia Scale % Agreement
Lazy 41
No willpower 41
Unattractive 54
Poor self-control 65
Slow 68
Having no endurance 72
Inactive 77
Weak 31
Self-indulgent 47
Likes food 80
Shapeless 36
Overeats 81
Insecure 80
Low self-esteem 75

After rating the above scale, the students were randomly assigned to read one of four mock health profiles.  The profiles were almost identical in their content, with only two differences in the parameters: 1. the patients were either obese or average weight; 2. the patients were either male or female.  The students were then asked to judge the health status of each patient.  The results were that they rated obese patients as less likely to follow through with treatment compared with average weight patients.

After this study was published, many articles (such as this one by Medicinenet) talk about the implication that these biases will have on obesity treatment, which basically stated that such negative attitudes will probably have a negative impact on the quality of care.

Is this true?  Part of me agrees that it’s important for those in health-care to remain as objective as possible in order to diagnose the situation accordingly.  But dietitians are in their field SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE WEIGHT, FOOD, NOURISHING AND EATING ISSUES are important to them, regardless of whether or not they are insecure about their own weight.  The “Fat Phobia Scale” reflects weight-related attitudes that might actually help in the quality of care, given such strong beliefs from the students.  I am questioning the implications that the results of this study seem to have stirred.  Perhaps there is a level of weight-bias necessary to treat people with weight issues.

For more info, see The Arizona Republic article.


A Berry Novelty

Magic berries, or better known as “miracle fruit,” are gaining popularity.  Glycoproteins bind to taste buds, altering the sour properties of foods to sweet.  The amount of time this “magic” lasts ranges from 15-30 minutes, with one hypothesis being that the protein distorts the shape of the sweetness receptors.

There are actually tasting parties surrounding this magical fruit.  The parties resemble any other involving drink, except people eat berries and then chug vinegar with lemon.  Hard to believe, but it’s true…  I can just imagine now: rowdy health nuts standing in a circle screaming “CHUG” and eating this:


Updated Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as the gold standard of nutrition.  The diet has a high omega-3 concentration from fatty acids, due to the large amounts of fish, nuts and olive oil.  Olive oil, though not the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, is still 10% linolenic acid (an omega-3 oil).  A large body of literature provides evidence to suggest a significant correlation between omega-3 fatty acids and decreased body inflammation.  Additional components of the diet, the grains from cereals, the fiber from fruits, nuts and vegetables and the anti-inflammatory compounds in wine, are all linked to longer life spans, less incidence of chronic disease and are cancer protective.

Recently, the diet has been updated by a nonprofit organization called, Oldways, who had initially developed the Mediterranean pyramid in 1993.  The main changes from the old pyramid are that the plant-based foods (veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives, and olive oil) are all grouped together, which according to Oldways, emphazises the health benefits these foods provide.  The plant-based foods make the base of the pyramid now versus grains.

Another addition to the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is herbs and spices—both for health benefits and taste.  The flavors of the cuisine are enhanced by their fresh herbs, such as oregano and thyme, found native to the land.  Studies have shown that the antioxidant properties in Mediterranean spices inhibit lipid peroxidation, which is when free radicals attack the phospholipid walls of your cells.

Lastly, the new pyramid recommends eating fish and shellfish at least two times per week.  See below to compare the the old versus the new.

The old pyramidNew pyramid (2009)

Childhood Obesity: Rates Keep Rising

It’s rampant, as we know, just based on looking at kids on the street.  Numbers tell us that the rates of overweight and obesity have increased dramatically during the past two decades.  Unfortunately, with obesity comes higher rates of mortality.  This means that many of today’s children will end up experiencing severe chronic illnesses earlier in their lives, if they haven’t already.  As soon as obesity starts in childhood, there is greater tendency toward developing such conditions (coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes) later in life.

Obese children

Sadly, the rates are only increasing.  Prevalence has increased for children (ages 2-5) from 5.0% in 1976-1980 to 12.4% in 2003-2006, as evidenced by data from the NHANES surveys.  For children aged 6-11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 17% and for ages 12-19, from 5% to 17.6%.

Strong evidence shows that once obesity carries through into adulthood, it’s a risk factor for atherosclerotis, cardiovascular events, and cardiac dysfunction, which is due to the correlation with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


NHANES data on the Prevalence of Overweight Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 2003–2006. CDC National Center for Health Statistics, Health E-Stat. (


Meet Rambutan.  He looks scary and mean but really he isn’t.


Dig a nail into the middle and peel off the rugged skin, you’ll find a crystal clear white pearl inside (edible, of course!)  It resembles a coconut in texture but the flavor is similar to a strawberry-flavored pineapple.

fruit_rambutan2The rambutan is a tropical fruit whose origins come from Southeast Asia and Indonesia.  I had many a rambutan this past summer when I traveled to the region.  Rambutans are sold right there on the streets, where a passerby can casually have a handfull weighed and then go along her merry way, peeling and eating these little monster-balls.